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I come to you, just finishing Aliya Whiteley‘s The Beauty. My version is sitting here next to me, marked up with a red pen, a coffee stain running through the bottom of most pages. My version includes an additional short story, Peace, Pipe, but before I dive into it, I must tell you about The Beauty.

This beast of Horror Literature, filled with inspiration and tragedy, is guaranteed to keep locked in my mind for moths to come. When it starts to fade, it will be time for a re-read. Having read this piece, I am reminded at just how powerful a single story can be. Oh, and Body Horror fans…read on.

What’s ‘The Beauty’ by Aliya Whiteley About?

We follow a group of men as they try to navigate a world without women, through the eyes of the group storyteller. Their lives seeming so ordered, until change occurs, cracking through the opaque lens these men view the world from. Each of the men’s lives are ransacked, torn to bits. Their lives depending on the willingness to adapt.

So many questions are evaluated in this piece. From social concerns to natural human behavior, and on to horrific inevitability. Not only is it well written, but Whiteley executes a clear vision with both grace and abruption. In one sentence you’ll find something with breathtaking inspiration, just to have a follow up sentence showing you the tragedy of your inspiration. Very humbling, this read.

“I have very little power over the story. It must come out as it does. I have been unfaithful to my gift by suggesting that it is under my control. If it can be controlled by me, then I can be controlled by others.” — Page 55

(Whiteley, 2018, p. 55)

Why Read ‘The Beauty’ by Aliya Whiteley?

Whiteley has a way, she knows how to work her Horror, pulling at the audience in all the right places. Raising dread one page, reminding us of what friendship means on the next. The Body Horror, LET ME TELL YOU! One scene specifically stands out, a vivid nightmare. While reading this scene, my face unconsciously twisted, my child asking me if I’m okay. HA! That takes talent, I’ve seen and read a lot of disturbing stuff. This piece stands out.

And the whole time she displays a smooth cadence, keeping me reading through the parts I didn’t want to keep reading but HAD to. Whiteley tells an urgent message, and people who are like me; people who are broken, but want to keep holding onto life, the people who’ve been told to ‘Shut up and sit down.” in our world. To the people looking to grow, nurture the ability to change who you are, look no further-for now.

“…protect us from what could be terrible and beautiful and all the things in between, the things that live on and live on.”

(Whiteley, 2018, p. 57)

So, What Do We Rate ‘The Beauty’?

As much as I don’t want to rate this story, this piece of art, I must. Before I give my rating, I have to tell you that I am not finished with this piece. I am excited about my next re-read, confident I will gain more insight. The beginning did take me a minute to really get into the story, making it slightly inaccessible, the phenomenal writing carrying me through that time.

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Reading this piece and other masterful pieces reminds me of how much I still have to learn about the art of storytelling. My urge to tell stories is urgent. I must stay humble. For now, while time passes until the next re-read, The Beauty will sit on display in my kitchen, for my family and company to see every day.

I am EXTREMELY interested in your thoughts on this piece. What should I read next??! I am on the lookout for authors like Aliya Whiteley, Horror appreciators and literary style. Let me know in the comments below!

I like to review Horror books. See my Spoiler-Free thoughts on Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

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Book Reviews

“The Writing Retreat” Gone Bad: Julia Bartz’s Debut

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Keeping it all in the family, Julia Bartz’s The Writing Retreat is the debut novel of the sister of Andrea Bartz, author of We Were Never Here, which I reviewed here.

I was much more impressed with The Writing Retreat than I was We Were Never Here.

The Plot

Five up and coming female writers under 30 are invited to a writing retreat hosted by the reclusive and acclaimed horror writer Rosa Vallo. Rosa reveals the details of the retreat: each writer must complete a full length novel from scratch over the next month. The best novel wins a multi-million dollar publishing deal with Rosa.

Suddenly, the retreat turns into a nightmare when one writer goes missing in the snowy terrain outside.

The novel hinges on friendships in turmoil and has a focus on LGBT+ representation as well as interpersonal female relationships. The novel explores the dark publishing world and the search for fame and the Great American Novel.

The Verdict

This novel is atmospheric and intellectual, page turning, and the English major’s required reading. I absorbed this novel and found Julia Bartz’s writing and conceptual chops to be leagues above her sister’s.

Ths novel releases on February 21, 2023 and it should be in your cart right now.

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Buy it here!

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Book Reviews

A Murder in Reverse: “Wrong Place Wrong Time”

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The Plot

“A brilliantly genre-bending, mind-twisting answer to the question How far would you go to save your child?”  — Ruth Ware, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Jen watches her son murder a stranger. Stab him to death. She and her husband, Kelly, watch as their son Todd is taken into custody.

The next morning, Jen wakes up and it’s yesterday. Jen knows that at the end of the night, her son kills someone. She is determined to stop it.

Jen goes further and further back in time trying to discover why Todd murdered a stranger and how to stop it.

The Verdict

This book is twisty. Right when you think you know the ending, something else is there to prove that the story is more multifaceted than that. While the premise of the novel is simple, Gillian McAllister elevates a simple concept with deep, dark twists.

It is best that you don’t know too much going into this one. For fans of Blake Crouch, this is such a good thriller with time travelling vibes.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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Book Reviews

Woom: An Extreme Horror Novel

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“That doesn’t invalidate it,” Angel said. “There’s no statute of limitations on pain.”

The Plot

Angel is a man who knows pain: physical, mental, sexual. The story begins with Angel visiting Room 6 at the Lonely Motel and ordering a plus-size sex worker to his room. What comes next is Angel’s retellings of painful stories while performing sexual acts on the sex worker, Shyla.

The novel reads as a book of short stories, as Angel relays stories to Shyla and she tells him stories back. This is a novel of pain and disgust. Angel’s stories are so dark and traumatic that Shyla can’t believe they are true. As Angel bares his soul, we see a side of him that is melancholy and unable to process hurt in a natural way.

The Verdict

This novel is full of disgusting visuals and isn’t afraid to get dirty. This truly is an extreme horror novel. As a warning, there is discussion of feces, blood, rape, sex, and body horror. This novel is not for the faint of heart. You’ll close this short novel feeling dirty. Angel is a character that begs for sympathy while his stories narrate that he may not be as innocent as he perceives.

When the subtitle says this novel is extreme horror, believe it. Only the strong will survive Duncan Ralston’s Woom. It is more splatterpunk than anything, but true literary quality lies beneath the filth.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Read it yourself by clicking below!

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